Brian Nickerson was a soldier to his core. He had been raised by a soldier and there had never been any question about what he would become when he got older. His younger brother had been expected to follow the same path but he grew up and chose to go to school and study philosophy. As far as Brian was concerned we was weak and no longer a part of the family.
He had found his best friend when he was thirteen years old. Kyle was a foster kid that moved in down the street and while he was very outgoing he was still kind of a follower and Brian was happy to lead. They had been close, like brothers themselves and though Kyle was six months older he had always acted as the younger brother.
They had graduated high school and joined the Army together the next day. They went to basic training together and served in combat missions as part of the same unit. Kyle received commendations and high praise from his superiors while many felt that Brian was unfocused and egotistical causing him to get passed over for promotion repeatedly. Even though Kyle outranked him Brian was always the leader between the two.
They both saw combat and when they returned stateside both suffered nightmares and flashbacks although Brian refused to admit he had any concerns. Kyle on the other hand recognized that he needed to talk and when he tried with Brian he just got laughed at. Now here they were again with Kyle trying to get help and Brian acting like it was a big joke.
Dr. Kurtsman may not have known all of this but the dynamic between the two men and the military background jumped out immediately. For one thing Brian had an Army t-shirt and fatigue pants on with boots while Kyle was wearing jeans and a polo shirt. They were both in decent shape, though Kyle’s physique stood out even under the unflattering garments he chose.
While the guys fought what was obviously a never ending battle, the young girl in the corner had slowly been sliding along the wall in the direction of the snacks. She had nearly reached her destination when she saw the doctor watching her and froze. He smiled and stood up. She immediately stepped back but only a few feet. She wasn’t sure what he was doing or who exactly he was. He walked over and picked up the box of donuts and held it out in her direction.
Wordlessly she stepped forward and snatched one before retreating back into the shelter of the shadows. Dr. Kurtsman gently unfolded a chair and put it down at the edge of the circle of light, facing the group. He backed away but kept his watch over her. Once he had retreated back to his seat she decided it was safe and crept into the offered chair, moving silently as though afraid of her own sound.
The guys stopped bickering for a minute when she sat down, surprised by the sudden invasion of the circle but almost immediately returned to their private disagreement. Meanwhile Dr. Kurtsman wondered down to see if the man that had stormed out was still around or if he had changed his mind. He found Craig outside quietly smoking and looking at pictures on his phone. There was also a young lady in the parking lot watching cautiously from the safety of her car.
He smiled and waved an acknowledgement and she waved back, sans the smile. She seemed to be having an internal version of the argument happening back inside. Sighing with her whole body she seemed to come to a decision and exited the vehicle, pulling her jacket slightly tighter and, with head lowered to avoid eye contact, brushed past the two men and stalked into the hall.
She had to slow her gate when she encountered the darkness, allowing her eyes to adjust momentarily but then resumed making a bee line for the coffee and quickly setting up a chair. She kept her eyes on the ground and sipped the luke warm caffeine. She fished out a cookie from her bag and nibbled on it daring a fast glance at the rest of the group. She needed this group to help but had serious doubts anything could help her and wasn’t sure she deserved the help even if it were available.
The two men outside appeared to be older, one quite a bit so, but there were a couple inside that seemed closer to her age. Then there was a very nervous looking little feather weight on her left. This poor thing was shaking and looked like she could bolt at any moment. She felt compelled to say something to her but just as she summoned her courage the smoker and old man wondered back in. This seemed to suggest that things were about to get started.
As Craig took his seat, Dr. Kurtsman moved his chair into more of a circle location and stood behind it, leaning forward and looking over his tiny flock. He looked over at the girl at the edge of the light and motioned for her to move closer. She hesitated but slid the chair into the circle, obviously favoring to be closer to the other female and distancing herself as much as possible from any of the men.
The feuding young men quieted down in anticipation and looked at him with quite different looks. Kyle waited patiently for guidance while the disdain from Brian was painted on his face. Craig was watching him, arms folded guardedly and the women were both wearily observing the men and somehow seemed to be simultaneously trying to disappear.